Although Velocette closed its doors in February 1971 going into voluntary liquidation and pre-deceasing many of the larger remaining British motorcycle manufacturers, its name has been kept alive and to the fore by one man – Ivan Rhodes. An avid competitor in all forms of motorcycle sport he was instrumental in the development of the vintage racing scheme and he supported his two son’s competition ambitions (and many others) when he retired from active competing.
There are also many other strands to his very active life in the world of motorcycling, but most will know he has been responsible for keeping the Velocette brand to the fore in racing and using his celebrated restoration skills to bring back to life some very special machines like the ‘Roarer’ and the ‘Model O’.
Totally immersed in the world of Velocette – who it should be remembered are responsible for the positive stop gear change and swinging arm suspension with hydraulic dampers – he has amassed an amazing collection not only of bikes, but also technical literature and information. So thirty plus years ago he was persuaded to write a book and share much of his hard won knowledge and wrote his acclaimed book ‘Technical Excellence Exemplified’ the title coming from a Velocette period slogan.
Obviously now out of print and with new converts to the world of vintage and classic motorcycling the time was right for Ivan to bring that seminal work up to date in the retitled ‘Velocette – Passion of a lifetime’ hardback reviewed here. Lavishly illustrated, the book covers the history of the Veloce company and features all their products including the two-strokes, camshaft models, the push rod M series and obviously the LE designed as the ‘Motorcycle for the Everyman’ (and its derivatives) used extensively by the police.
As one might expect racing machines also feature extensively given that the machines were also prominent in competition gaining several world titles along with a still unbeaten 24 hour world record. Included is also a fascinating chapter on Velocette people, along with a very comprehensive set of appendices on machine specification, engine and gearbox numbers, along with production figures.
Period images abound of machines, the factory and the men responsible for design, production and competition success throughout this lavish coffee table sized book. Images taken during the restoration of the Roarer and Model O show the amazing skills of the author along with the technical brilliance of the original designs, which it could be argued, were ahead of their time.
In 280 pages the author, along with few guest writers like LE expert Denis Frost, bring alive the world of Velocette past and present in a very interesting a readable way and I can easily see how the original work sold out and is still sought after by Velocette enthusiasts.
However, even if that volume is sitting on the bookshelf, it is well worth investing £30.00 for this updated version. Compared to other marques, books on Velocette are in the minority and personally having read this excellent version, I can now see the attraction of the bikes and how they inspire such passion and would urge anyone with an interest in motorcycling history to read this excellent tome.
Available @ £30.00 from the National Motorcycle Museum